Laying your baby on their tummy may feel totally alien to you – all the advice suggests that babies should be laid on their back at bed time or nap time, and that’s absolutely right for sleeping. However, paediatricians also suggest that some supervised time spent on their tummy while they’re awake is tremendously beneficial in helping the development of muscles and motor skills. While the ‘back to sleep’ advice has worked well in greatly reducing the number of cot deaths in the UK, it does mean that babies often spend very little time on their tummies and it’s important that they do so in order to gain the strength they need to learn to roll, sit up, and crawl. It also helps to avoid ‘flat spots’ developing on their head from lying on their back all the time.
When you first lay your little one on their front they may well not appear to like it. The lack of strength in their neck muscles will mean that it’s hard for them to lift their head off the floor and they look like they’re just ‘face-planting’ the mat! However, when they master the skill of lifting their head they’ll enjoy a new perspective on the world. You can start tummy time from a very early age – in fact as soon as their umbilical stump has healed – but to avoid placing your newborn face-down on the floor you can lay them on your tummy or chest instead. This not only counts as tummy time, but it is lovely bonding time too. Baby will love being so close to you and looking directly at your face.
As they get a little older, you can put them on a mat or rug on the floor to enjoy tummy time, with some toys within easy reach to encourage them to explore. Make sure any hazards are well out of the way and that it’s not too draughty down there – you want tummy time to be a fun experience! Also, ensure baby is always supervised and not left to fall asleep on their tummy; touch or tickle them, talk to them or make sure they can see you so that they feel reassured, safe and happy.
At first they may get fed up and frustrated fairly quickly but if you continue for a few minutes each day you’ll see their strength build up and the length of time they’re happy to spend on their tummy increase. Soon enough they’ll be picking up their head, by around 3 months they may be pushing themselves up and, at 6 months, they may be reaching for things in front of them. It’s just like working out – the more you do it, the stronger you get! Maybe you could join them down there on the floor and do a bit of an exercise session of your own, as moral support!
To make tummy time more enjoyable you could try holding up a mirror for baby to look into, or dangling a toy just above their head for them to look up at. You could get down nose-to-nose with them, making faces or funny noises to add to the fun. There are also lots of ‘tummy time toys’ available to encourage baby to enjoy this time, exploring the world around them and reaching out in different directions as their neck and core muscles develop and strengthen – a selection can be found here: http://www.madeformums.com/reviews-and-shopping/10-of-the-best-tummy-time-aids/41381.html.
Do you have any tummy time advice? Did your little one love it or hate it? We’d love to hear your top tummy-time tips!
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